Running a Secret Executive Job Search

  • “I’m afraid if I post my resume online, my current employer will find it.”
  • “The position sounds like a perfect fit, but I can’t risk submitting my resume.”
  • “What if word gets back to my employer that I have been looking for another job?”
  • “I found a blind ad that describes exactly the position I am looking for, but what if the advertiser is my current company?”


I hear these fears from executive job seekers frequently. To avoid detection they limit their job search to only contacting a few select organizations, often excluding some of the very companies that are most likely to value their experience.

Don’t let fear of jeopardizing your current position cripple your job search and keep you from landing the job you want. There are plenty of techniques that will protect your identity and allow you to earn interviews and generate meetings with prospective employers.

1. Use Your Network.

It is estimated that 60-70% of all job hunters find employment through personal referrals. This approach also has an additional benefit: it allows you to contact companies while keeping your identify confidential.

Make a list of the companies where you would like to interview, then compile a list of the contacts you know, or know of, that might be able to arrange introductions at these employers.

Show your list of target employers to each contact, and see who they can contact for you. If they are willing to pick up the phone and make a call, that is ideal. But even a quick email can set the stage for further conversations. Ask your contacts to arrange interviews with the people they know – department heads, line managers, the C-suite are all preferred to contacting human resources directly. The management contacts are often able to create positions, and know about potential openings long before the personnel department does.

This approach works incredibly well because your contact has a relationship and credibility with each department head, etc that they call or email – this provides you with credibility as well. A huge bonus is that your contact does not need to reveal your name unless there is interest and an interview is arranged.

Another good approach is to have your personal contacts send e-mails to managers who might have a need for someone with your qualifications. Your contacts don’t have to know these managers – they only need to hold respected positions in the same field. Their signature block in the email with employer name and title, will give them – and you – the necessary credibility. If you’re fortunate enough to have a contact who’s well-known in your industry, his or her endorsement will have even greater impact.

This email should state that the sender represents an extremely qualified person who wishes anonymity because of a current employment situation. After briefly describing your qualifications, your contacts should state their willingness to arrange interviews with any management that want to meet you.

2. Develop Relationships With Executive Search Firms

Retained search firms are who executive job seekers want to contact. There are two types of search firms: Contingency and Retained.

Contingency firms usually deal with placements in the $40,000-$100,000 salary range. They get paid only when the candidate they present accepts a position, so they are also more likely to suggest you for more openings. This could compromise your privacy, so if you do deal with a contingency firm, make sure they understand your desires and ask that they always contact you prior to proposing you for an opening.

Retained search firms primarily work with positions paying more than $100,000 annually. Retained firms are employed by companies, not candidates and are paid even if the candidates they propose are not hired. They will help keep your privacy because they never “broadcast” out names of candidates. But they are also seeking candidates with a specific background, for specific positions, and if you do not meet their criteria, they will not present you to employers.

Our clients have had great success with our programs to help introduce you to executive search firms. We maintain two lists – Elite Executive Search Firms which represent the top 1% of all retained search firms across North America, and Retained Search Firms which is a comprehensive list of ALL retained search firms in North America. These firms are used to receiving confidential resumes, and are usually looking to fill positions only with currently employed candidates.

3. Use LinkedIn

This does not require a long commentary – use LinkedIn. Without it, you are missing tons of opportunity. Employers and recruiters alike are relying more and more on LinkedIn to find potential candidates.

It’s a powerful tool, and the best part is that you can put all of your information out there, without appearing as though you are in the market for a new job.

The networking opportunities on LinkedIn are huge, and need to be used. It’s much too detailed to go into all the ways to use it here – but there are many tutorials out there on LinkedIn basics to get you started.

Employed job seekers often don’t realize how many options they have for contacting companies without their employers knowing about it. I’ve seen it happen over and over – you will land a new position without having jeopardized your current situation.


Candace Barr was the Marketing Director for a national law firm for 10 years before transitioning to the executive search industry as the VP of Research. She spent years developing proprietary research processes and procedures to identify key companies, executives and their direct contact information.

Barr Research, LLC and Strategic Executive Connections were established in 2010 to provide this valuable service to executive job seekers, as well as executive recruiters seeking to contact high quality candidates.

The overwhelming positive response to our unique service says it all – Whether you are looking to contact one particular company, or target an entire industry, our process will advance your job search and industry connections beyond your expectations. http://StrategicExecutiveConnections.com

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